Michelle Malkin: Wrongfully convicted Valentino Dixon finally seeing light
“If it wasn’t for my artwork and God, there’s no way we’d be having this conversation right now.”
I’m in Colorado on a three-way phone call with Valentino Dixon, inmate No. 91B1615 at New York’s Wende Correctional Facility, and his 27-year-old daughter, Tina Dixon, a first-grade teacher in Ohio. Faith, family and drawing — golf courses, jazz musicians, landscapes — have kept him alive and sane behind bars. It has been a long, hard roller-coaster ride with “so many ups and downs” that he has learned to manage expectations while holding on to hope.
Tina was a 4-month-old infant when her father was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 33 years to life. That’s “26 lost summer vacations, 26 missed birthdays, 26 years of life,” she recounted earlier this year at an event I attended at Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative class on wrongful convictions.
“I watched him for years studying the case in front of me over trailer visits, showing me all the facts, putting this puzzle together.”
About six years into his sentence, Dixon started reading every book he could get his hands on. He is self-taught in art, business, law and survival. Dixon has been a model prisoner, mentoring other inmates (“I’m like Dr. Phil for these guys,” he chuckles) and earning international interest for his online art gallery. He’s never been to a golf course, but Attica’s former warden sparked Dixon’s imagination by bringing him a photo of Augusta National’s 12th hole.
Lots of convicts will tell you they didn’t do it. But
Dixon has steadfastly maintained his innocence in the street corner shooting that led to the death of Torriano Jackson and the wounding of three others. And here’s the kicker: There is someone else who has repeatedly said Dixon didn’t commit the crime — because he did it.
Lamarr Scott first confessed to killing Jackson just days after the 1991 shooting during a Buffalo TV news broadcast. In 2012, Scott stated publicly of prosecutors who he says threatened him: “Each and every day it eats away at me that I allowed them to convince me to do the wrong thing.” No forensic evidence, no physical evidence and no murder weapon tied Dixon to the crime. Multiple witnesses gave sworn statements that Dixon was not the shooter ; others gave physical descriptions that matched the six-foot-tall, heavy-set Scott, not the five-foot-seven, 130-pound Dixon . Two witnesses who adamantly insisted Dixon didn’t do it were charged with perjury by the prosecutor before Dixon’s trial.
Instead of objecting to the government’s strong-arm intimidation tactics, Dixon’s own public defender (who failed to call a single witness to the stand or enter a single exhibit in his client’s defense) obsequiously praised the prosecutor’s maneuver as “brilliant.”
“Lawyers throw cases all the time,” Dixon sighs. This sickening pattern repeats itself endlessly in blue states and red ones, across racial and socioeconomic lines: ineffective counsel, faulty eyewitness testimony, shady deal-making and decades of legal wrangling to undo the damage and uncover the truth.
Dixon makes no excuses for his rough past when he got caught up in drugs in his youth: “I’m no angel.” But he and a growing army of supporters say he’s no killer.
New York lawyer Marty Tankleff is an extraordinary exoneree who was wrongfully convicted of murdering his parents at 17. based on a coerced confession, corrupt police detective and prosecutorial misconduct Tankleff co-teaches the Georgetown class whose students investigated Dixon’s case last semester. As a result of new evidence of prosecutorial misconduct they helped uncover, a new “440 motion” was filed on Dixon’s behalf in May.
The motion is in the hands of Erie County District Attorney John Flynn, whose office told me that a decision may be issued by mid- August. Could this be the light at the end of the torturous tunnel? Dixon and his family have been here before, through endless appeals, waiting for a favorable ruling, hanging on to prayer, hope and each other.
“I have a strong faith. I definitely trust in God’s plan,” Dixon says during our hour-long talk . “I know I’ve got truth on my side. And truth always wins.”
Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on CRTV.com.